OCLC Review Board Recommends the Withdraw of Proposed Policy; Advocates for an Open Process

Earlier today, OCLC posted the recording [Flash] and presentation slides [PDF] from Jennifer Younger’s presentation to the Members Council updating them on the progress of the Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship. Although the work of the Review Board is not yet complete, they are recommending the “policy should be withdrawn.” They also acknowledge a ‘gap problem’ in understanding the role of OCLC and the social underpinnings of the cooperative. Oddly (my interpretation) this seems to be couched in a generation gap between those around when OCLC was founded and those that have come after: “But as new generations of members come into our ranks, it becomes more difficult to explain the social contract that is OCLC.” I detect a hint of us-versus-them thinking, but I hesitate to mention it and almost didn’t include it here because it is based on such a flimsy foundation. Jennifer’s report also lists some initial questions to consider in a process of forming a new policy. She acknowledges that this is work that the members of the review board need to tackle before presenting the final report.

The presentation is about 19 minutes long; if you prefer to read a text version of it, a rough transcription is included below.

Rough Transcript of Jennifer Younger’s Presentation


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Presentation slide #1

It’s my pleasure to be here today to discuss with you the work of the review board. When Larry called I didn’t know precisely what to expect in regard to this assignment. But I did have a feeling that it would be a learning opportunity for everyone — for all of us on the review board, for the Members Council and for OCLC at large. And indeed I think that is happening. Many of you are aware that President Obama was invited to speak the at Notre Dame commencement where he was awarded an honorary degree. That caused considerable controversy, not only on campus but also throughout the Catholic community. At the ceremony yesterday Father Jenkins, the president of my university, said this: Difference must be acknowledged and in some cases even cherished. He went on to say, as we serve our country we will be motivated by faith but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialog that appeals to reason that all can accept. Although speaking about a very different topic here today, I believe his words offer guidance for us as well.

Review Board Members


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Presentation slide #2

The review board is comprised of 11 individuals, all of whom bring significant expertise to the job at hand as well as perspectives from a wide range of institutions and several countries. I can tell you it is a very knowledgeable and thoughtful group of individuals.

Review Board Charge


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Presentation slide #3

The charge is three-fold. We are actively engaging in consulting and reviewing — both within the community and as well as the input that we have received. Review reports, letters, and comments. And we will use these to inform the principles and recommendations that we submit to the board.

Review Board Process


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Presentation slide #4

We have met weekly since mid-February, discuss the issues among ourselves, we have attended other meetings in the broad library community including state and regional consortia. While the topic of the proposed policy was not always a formal agenda, it was certainly a topic of many a hallway conversation. We have solicited input as well through our e-mail list and blog. Very importantly, numerous organizations have responded pointing out problems, questions and concerns — certainly not limited to those mentioned here, either in terms of the organizations or of the problems. Some organizations such as ACRL have offered assistance. Some have written in support of the ARL report, which was actually one of the first organizational responses we received. While others such as Causla [?] wrote to express support for the formation of the review board and request a member from their specific community be invited to serve. We are reading the postings of individuals on listservs, blogs, and petitions. Listservs including code4lib, autocat, liblicense, and the next generation catalog for libraries. We’ve conducted our own survey. I can say that we are actively listening to the community.

Review Board’s Survey


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Presentation slide #5

Our own survey targeted librarians and other constituents. It was broadly distributed. We asked people to respond to their own views, not with those of their institution. We saw this as an opportunity to hear not only from many kinds of libraries and organizations, but to hear what range of views might exist within our organizations. We heard from a lot of people. 1620, to be exact. 82% were from OCLC member institutions. We heard from people in all types of libraries and memory institutions, and from individuals working for vendors, publishers, and other data aggregators. Most of the respondents were from the United States, but all together the respondents came from 54 countries. Directors responded in an unusually high percent in comparison with other OCLC surveys. When combined with managers, these two sets administrators — managers of course including IT managers as well as tech services managers and public services managers — these two sets of administrators constituted nearly half of the responses.

Broad Issues


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Presentation slide #6

So what did we hear. Many questions, many problems, many concerns, many issues. We have highlighted here some of the broad issues that we see. While not listed in any specific order, each of these issues represents a recurring theme. We all have day jobs, and we too sometimes hear our work characterized as lacking communication, consultation, and clarity. Despite the statement on intent in the proposed policy and the use examples in the FAQ, respondents indicated they do not see the problem, and where they do, they do not see how the proposed policy will address the problem. Inconsistencies between the policy and the FAQ. Concerns that “reasonable use” would unduly limit consortial initiatives or those of other third policies are examples of the confusion around core issues and the practical implications for members use of their records. Interestingly there is a lack of awareness to the existing guidelines — something we should all pay attention to, as such awareness is a shared responsibility. Perhaps then, in this context we should not be surprised that ‘the gap problem’ emerged, that the proposed record use policy was perceived by many as putting OCLC’s interests ahead of those of member libraries.

A New Environment


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Presentation slide #7

Thinking about the gap problem leads us to think about today’s environment. Libraries and other memory institutions became members in OCLC to create new efficiencies in their work and to deliver even better services to their constituencies. At the same time, these same libraries and memory institutions — that is to say, “we” — are members of and/or work with multiple other partners in the information ecosystem. One recommendation coming from the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control was a recommendation to extend the reach of WorldCat in library catalogs, to ingest more kinds of metadata. In this new environment, the attention of many players is turning to the creation of services layered on aggregated metadata. How can WorldCat be integrated into other sources and services. By OCLC? by Libraries? by other partners in the information ecosystem. Over the past years, OCLC members have been well-served by their sharing and reuses of WorldCat records and holdings data. WorldCat records are the basis of a wide range of services, some provided by OCLC and some by other partners in the information ecosystem. Members see a future in which WorldCat is available for reasonable use on a non-discriminatory basis to members as well as to other partners.

Directions: Fresh Start


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Presentation slide #8

Where is the review board going. Today we bring you our thinking on our directions. The first of which is to make a fresh start. This policy is sufficiently flawed that while a policy is needed this policy should be withdrawn. And we should reaffirm the existence and applicability of the 1987 Guidelines for the Use and Transfer of OCLC-derived Records.

Directions: Revising the Social Contract


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Presentation slide #9

Second, the equilibrium has been disrupted. We must revisit the social contract between OCLC and its members. We have documents such as the principles of cooperation, the guidelines for record use, both of which related to some aspects of the social contract we have. But as new generations of members come into our ranks, it becomes more difficult to explain the social contract that is OCLC. Just as in ballroom dancing it takes two people to tango. We need to work together — OCLC and its members — to solve the gap problem as it relates to the past but more importantly to the future. We need to understand our respective roles in reinforcing the values for working within the OCLC collaborative and understand how those values can support working with other partners in the information ecosystem. OCLC serves a public purpose. And toward that end makes WorldCat publicly available at the lowest possible cost. Nevertheless, WorldCat is a membership asset. Although many contributing OCLC members are publicly supported institutions, and this public money does go toward building the database, OCLC itself is a not-for-profit entity that must earn revenue and recover the cost of sustaining WorldCat. Yet within this context, there are expectations for how a not-for-profit membership cooperative develops and stewards its core activity. OCLC members are well-served by their sharing and reuses of their data, just as they are well-served by the services of other partners which are also based on the use of WorldCat records. Members want to be assured that WorldCat is available for reasonable use on a non-discriminatory basis to members as well as to other partners. That’s the question of how the collaborative works with both its members and others in the information ecosystem is important to consider in the context of the social contract between OCLC and its members.

Directions: Role of WorldCat


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Presentation slide #10

The third direction. We must address the role and value of WorldCat in the information ecosystem and the ways in which it can be leveraged. As mentioned earlier, the trend is toward creating services layered on aggregated data. WorldCat is a comprehensive, authoritative, and high-quality source of aggregated data. Larger in scope and scale than any other similar database in the world. Undue replication of WorldCat would disperse the value which so admirably serves the member community. How can it be leveraged. By OCLC? by libraries and other memory institutions? And by other partners in the information ecosystem. In the eyes of the majority of the survey respondents, WorldCat is based on a system of shared responsibility for creating, maintaining, and preserving the data. A system of sharing responsibility between OCLC and its members. Leveraging WorldCat calls for a new approach to describing acceptable and reasonable uses of WorldCat. Moving away from a focus on protecting the database to consider how WorldCat might be used for the benefit of the community of libraries and other memory institutions. New questions, such as the following, might be asked. Would the proposed uses by an OCLC member, consortia, or other players lead to a less-comprehensive or authoritative WorldCat? Would the proposed uses draw a significant cash flow away from maintaining WorldCat? Would the proposed uses benefit some segment of the library and other memory institution community without materially diminishing the benefit and use of WorldCat by other members? These are only a few of the questions that we need to rethink and formulate as we think about how WorldCat can be leveraged for the good of all. One intent express in the proposed policy was to protect the members’ investment in WorldCat and ensure the use of WorldCat records would benefit the membership. We need to identify the major encroachments that threaten WorldCat. We need at the same time to identify the uses members wish to make of their local catalogs and develop generally-acceptable uses and courses of action, including member-mediated third party use that members can take on their own as responsible members of the collaborative. We must focus on the value of sustaining WorldCat for the benefit of members and non-members, for OCLC, libraries and other memory institutions, and other partners in the information ecosystem.

Directions: Process for Drafting and Maintaining a Policy


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Presentation slide #11

The fourth direction. We have to put a process in place for drafting and maintaining a new policy. There are no simple answers that we can put into a new policy, or is developing the answers in our charge. The process, however, for doing this must involve the governance structure of OCLC. The proposed policy is fundamental to the functioning of OCLC and should be seen by all to appropriately promote the values and activities of this membership cooperative. The development of this policy without sufficient consultation has lead some to the conclusion that the members are not successfully influencing the directions of the organization, which in the eyes of some weakens OCLC. It certainly not in our best interests. Seeking and incorporating input from the broader community is a necessary requirement for appropriately taking into account the complexity of the information ecosystem in which OCLC and its members operate. Once completed, there must also be a process based again on consultation and transparency for on-going updating and review of the process.

Directions: Principles on which a New Policy is Based


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Presentation slide #12

The last direction is on principles. The review board is charged with recommending principles on which a new policy should be based. At this point we are still digesting the input and the development of such principles lies ahead of us. The WorldCat Principles of Cooperation which was adopted by members council on May 21, 1996, as well as the statements of intent in the proposed policy are helpful starting points. The principles of cooperation speak to the commitments member libraries must make to encourage participation in OCLC, and to strengthen WorldCat by promoting the full and timely contribution of records by member libraries. The principles of cooperation speak also to OCLC’s commitment to facilitate the participation of libraries as authorized users of OCLC records, systems, and services. The new policy should focus on the value of sustaining WorldCat. OCLC serves a public purpose, and toward that end makes WorldCat publicly available at the lowest possible cost. Principles on issues such as furthering access to knowledge, incorporating the values of the cooperative, balancing individual member needs with those of the collaborative, and more will come under our discussion. We particularly invite your comments today on these principles. Most of all, a new policy should impart confidence to members and partners building strategies that are predicated on WorldCat, incorporating in this guidance confidence, predictability, and stability. WorldCat is an important component in the infrastructure supporting libraries and other memory institutions.

Open to Discussion


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Presentation slide #13

Let me close my presentation by thanking all of the members of the review board. Yesterday was a long day, with some of us here in person and others joining on the phone. I want to recognize my review board colleagues who are here: Pat French, Lamar Veatch, Brian Schottlaender, Chris Cole, Ted Schwitzner, Poul Erlandsen, Karen Calhoun, and David Whitehair. We want to solicit your advice today. We want you to help us. Are we asking the right questions. Are we going in the right direction. Certainly the floor is open for discussion, but we encourage you as well to send e-mail to us — send your comments on our online feedback forum.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/board/default.htm to http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20090318034041/http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/board/default.htm on January 28th, 2011.

The text was modified to update a link from http://dewey.library.nd.edu/mailing-lists/ngc4lib/ to https://listserv.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=NGC4LIB on November 16th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.library.yale.edu/~llicense/mailing-list.shtml to http://liblicense.crl.edu/ on November 21st, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://dewey.library.nd.edu/mailing-lists/code4lib/ to https://listserv.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=CODE4LIB on December 4th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/20090518-MC-Jennifer_Younger.pdf to http://web.archive.org/web/20090704135313/http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/20090518-MC-Jennifer_Younger.pdf on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/recordusepolicy.pdf to http://web.archive.org/web/20100616212050/http://www.oclc.org/us/en/worldcat/catalog/policy/recordusepolicy.pdf on August 22nd, 2013.

(This post was updated on 21-Aug-2013.)